According to Dictionary.com, the definition of criticism is “the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding”. Ouch. Who would want to be on the receiving end of that? Well, no one, really. On a social level, criticism beats on an individual’s self esteem and confidence. At the workplace, criticism may inhibit creativity and innovation. The problem arises when individuals refrain from certain activities in order to avoid it.
Today’s edition of the Virginian Pilot featured a story about a former Hampton Roads high school student who “paid tribute to his former principal” in a sketch on Saturday Night Live (Will Harris, Comedian pays tribute to principal in ‘SNL’ skit). Now that was a brave move. How many people have the fortitude to mock a former principal, teacher, or boss on national television? Imagine the repercussions and possibilities of the feedback.
However, like so many choices in life, it is not always what we do that matters but how we do it. Indian River High School alum Jay Pharoah incorporated his former principal’s character into his skit on SNL after asking, in person, his permission to do so (Will Harris, Comedian pays tribute to principal in ‘SNL’ skit, The Virginian Pilot). That simple act of respect altered what could have been a humiliating mockery to an inspired tribute. Jay’s proactive inclusion of his principal in the process averted a possible backlash of defensive feedback. It also gave him the freedom to be inspired, brilliant, and entertaining.
Too often in organizations individuals do not take risks for fear of failure or negative feedback. The possibility of being criticized or laughed at by peers or superiors can be paralyzing. However, in order for the company to be innovative and competitive it must have empowered employees who are not afraid to pitch their progressive ideas.
In order to accomplish this, owners and managers need to proactively foster ingenuity. Employees need to be given the opportunity to meet and brainstorm with peers not only within their direct work group, but also outside of their departments. Creativity should be praised and rewarded. New ideas for products, services, or work processes should be positively acknowledged even when they are not immediately implemented. When leaders become a part of the process, and fear of criticism is no longer a factor, employees are free to be inspired, brilliant, and possibly even entertaining.